Pig-nosed turtle at S'pore Zoo that follows visitors around in its exhibit isn't actually lonely

Alone but not lonely.

Ashley Tan | February 20, 2024, 02:01 PM



A visitor to the Singapore Zoo recently came across a turtle by its lonesome in its exhibit.

In a now-viral TikTok which has garnered over 555,000 views, the turtle was seen swimming in its exhibit, tailing the camera.

The TikTok user, @peters.human, claimed that the turtle was "really lonely".

"He's the only turtle in the enclosure and I can tell he wants human attention because he kept following us when we were walking," wrote the TikTok user.

@peters.human This was the first exhibit we saw, and we were the first few people in the zoo for the day. When we walked past, the turtle quickly swam to us and when we walked down, he followed us along the stretch. We wanted to see if he was actually following us, so we walked back to the start of the tank and he swam back to be near us! 😭 Many people just walked past this enclosure because it’s empty and he’s the only one in it… he’s lonely. @Mandai Wildlife Reserve please explain why he’s the only one in the enclosure! #tiktoksg #singaporetiktok #singaporezoo #zoo #pignosedturtle #turtle #turtletok #pignose #animals #aquaticlife #visit #him #lonely #im #not #crying ♬ original sound - Puff ♢

TikTok users in the comments chimed in with exclamations of how cute the turtle's antics were.

Pig-nosed turtles are curious

In response to Mothership's queries, a spokesperson from Mandai Wildlife Group shared that the pig-nosed turtle, also known as a fly river turtle, is a male.

He is housed at the riverine exhibit in the Pygmy hippo zone at the Singapore Zoo.

The turtle is estimated to be 21 years old and currently shares its habitat with filament barbs, a type of fish.

The spokesperson said that this species of turtle is known to be inquisitive, and "generally like to investigate the happenings around them".

"They can often be observed swimming along the tank as guests walk by, due to their curious behaviour."

This behaviour, which was displayed in the TikTok video, is therefore not a sign of loneliness or stress, the spokesperson said.

Alone but not lonely

The Mandai Wildlife Group spokesperson added that the pig-nosed turtle is a solitary species, and individuals only come together during the breeding season.

"As they are territorial and aggressive by nature, individuals of the same species are not housed together," they added.

A TikTok user who works for Mandai Wildlife Group also voiced his opinion on this issue in a video.

Clarifying that he was sharing his views in his own personal capacity, user @p1kashiu said that many people tend to view animals as "mini-humans"

That is erroneous. Many animals are "alone but not lonely", @p1kashiu noted.

When it is not the breeding season, animals may see other individuals as a threat to their food and resources.

"So a lot of animals, especially turtles, prefer to be alone," he said, echoing what the Mandai Wildlife Group spokerson said about the solitary nature of this species.

Take terrapins for example. Individuals tend to get more aggressive as they get older and larger.

@p1kashiu's advice is not to keep more than one terrapin in the same space.

You can watch his full video here.

@p1kashiu Replying to @IlikeySegk TLDR- many turtles are not social like humans.#flyriverturtle #pignosedturtle #turtle #mandaiwildlifereserve #singaporezoo #singapore ♬ Chill Vibes - Tollan Kim

More about pig-nosed turtles

Pig-nosed turtles are native to Australia and New Guinea, and are so named due to their distinct fleshy snout.

Unlike other freshwater turtles, pig-nosed turtles have flippers, which resemble those of a sea turtle.

They are classified as "Endangered", according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The species' main threats are the illegal pet trade, as well as demand for the turtles and eggs as food.

Top photo from peters.human / TikTok and p1kashiu / TikTok